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Insulin relief hope for kids

(From left) Doctors TK Mukherjee, Richard Holt, Tirthankar Chaudhury, Andrew Boulton and Sandip Bhalla at the conference at the Oberoi Grand on Sunday. (Sanat Kr Sinha)

Esplanade: Inhalers and pills could give children suffering from diabetes freedom from daily insulin injections, if research succeeds, doctors from British universities said at a conference in the city on Sunday.

Patients can be fitted with automatic glucometers that take readings round the clock and send a message to the user's mobile phone if the blood sugar level reaches a point where insulin intervention becomes necessary.

Children suffering from type 1 or paediatric diabetes, whose bodies stop producing insulin, have to take insulin injections every time they have a major meal.

Inhalers and pills could help this group.

Type 1 diabetes is usually detected in children aged 10 to 15.

"It is stressful for children as needles have to be pricked before every meal. It would improve their quality of life greatly if they could switch to inhalers or tablets," Richard Holt, professor of diabetes and endocrinology at the University of Southampton, said at Diabetes Update 2018, Kolkata, a conference hosted by Diabetes and Endocrinology Forum in Calcutta.

"The problem with inhalers that scientists are now trying to get around is that the rate of absorption varies from one person to another, making it difficult to fix a dose. Researchers are also looking into possible side effects of the diabetes inhaler," said Holt, chief editor of the International Textbook of Diabetes as well as Diabetic Medicine.

Advancements in technology now allow type 1 diabetes patients to wear "insulin pumps" that can be adjusted to send a fixed dose of the drug into the body. The use of the pump ensures that the patient has to be pricked once in three days, when the channel has to be changed, and not three to four times daily.

Holt spoke of ongoing research to develop a weekly injection for patients of type 2 diabetes, who are usually detected with the disease much later and in whose case the body does not produce enough insulin.

In India, there are over 62 million people with diabetes and the number is projected to go up to 79 million by 2030. About 90 per cent of them are estimated to be patients of type 2 diabetes.

Andrew Boulton, an endocrinologist from the University of Manchester, said diabetes could well turn out to be the "cancer of the 21st century" unless there is greater awareness and the condition is detected early.

Tirthankar Chaudhury, the president of Diabetes and Endocrinology Forum, said an agreement had been signed with drug manufacturer Sanofi under which type 1 diabetes patients from economically backward sections of society would be provided free insulin round the year.

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